2013 — A Great Year to be a Reader

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What a year.

I will always remember 2013 for a number of reasons. I finally decided to write (and then publish) my first novel. In fact, since late July, I’ve published a novel, three short stories and a novella. Along the way, I’ve learned a TON about writing, publishing, and marketing…I’ve learned about myself…and I’ve become friends with loads of new people whether fellow authors or readers.

As I looked back on the year, I also realized how many books I read. Just looking through my Kindle, I realized I’d read over 50 books just through Amazon and another 10-20 in physical copy as well. True…many of the Kindle books were what we might call short stories, but I’ll call them books nonetheless. That many books was pretty amazing, especially considering the time I have to spend working on my classes for school and the time I spent writing doesn’t exactly lend itself towards reading.

With all those books, I felt compelled to write a Best of the Year List. I don’t want to rank them, necessarily, but I’ll just say these are the ones that really stuck with me. When I think back on this year, these are the books I’ll really remember reading.

dustDUST by Hugh Howey

I’ll remember this because it was the epic conclusion to Howey’s ground-breaking WOOL Saga. Not only did he finish his story, he nailed the landing. There are a lot of stories that have difficulty on the final leg, but fortunately Howey didn’t succumb to the general rule. It seemed like I waited a long time for the story, but in all actuality, Hugh puts his stories out so quickly that I read WOOL, SHIFT, and then DUST within two years’ time. The book landed on Kindle on my birthday and the best present I received was time from my family to read DUST from cover to cover that day.

lgmLITTLE GREEN MEN by Peter Cawdron

I’d heard about Cawdron through Facebook posts by Howey earlier in the year, but I hadn’t read any of his works until LGM, which came out right before Labor Day in the U.S. I had a splurge in the three days of the holiday weekend and LGM was one of the books I read. The Jason Gurley designed cover catches the eye of any reader and quickly brought me in. Cawdron dedicated the book to Philip K. DIck and you can definitely see influences of PKD as well as Asimov and Heinlein. So good, I bought it in paperback and gave it to my father for Christmas.

pa2PENNSYLVANIA 1 & 2 by Michael Bunker

Why do you torture me so, Bunker?! Okay…so I count Michael Bunker as one of my friends, but even with that admission, I’ll say that both PA1&2 blew me away. Just fantastic. That said…I’d really like to read PA3 to see how this story ends. I said how LGM reminded me of sci-fi masters…well Bunker nailed Heinlein in Pennsylvania. Bunker calls it his “Amish Sci-Fi story” and that really drew me to it. My wife doesn’t read much beyond Amish romance and I love sci-fi — something I’d threatened to write for years. Bunker beat me to it, but that’s alright. He knocked it out of the park.

the sowingTHE SOWING by K. Makansi

Who is K. Makansi? Before I read The Sowing, I assumed it was just another ambitious sci-fi author and my assumption took me towards the masculine. I was wrong. Three times. K. Makansi is a mother and two daughters who wrote the book together and boy…is it a good one. The Sowing reminded me a lot of reading The Hunger Games for the first time — discovering a diamond in the rough. Reviewers compare it to both Hunger Games and Divergent, but I thought it was better than DIvergent. In fact, I read all of the Divergent trilogy this past year as well, including the finale, Allegiant. I wrote a two-star review of Allegiant and one of my complaints was telling the story first-person, alternating the chapters between the main characters Tris and Four. Makansi was able to pull this off between a male and female protagonist and make it feel like two separate people with very opposite lives and goals. Well done — looking forward to Book 2 in 2014.

ImageSTEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson

Speaking of The Hunger Games, there have been countless stories written by Young Adult authors since Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic tale came out that tried to mirror the story. Sanderson managed to make his own futuristic tale with a unique twist — what if super powers existed, but everyone who had them abided by Machiavelli’s principle that men are self-centered. Anyone in the Steelheart universe is either super-powered evil-doer or plain old human. Fascinating and riveting.

ImageTHE SCOUT by Eric Tozzi

I’d first heard about Eric through Michael Bunker and once his book was released late this year, I purchased, read, and loved. It is a great story that jumps off the page like it was designed for the screen. Tozzi tells the story of a man, faced with the personal story of his parents’ mortality, confronted with a possible alien invasion. Tozzi does phenomenal in his debut novel and I’ll be among the first to get whatever he writes next.

ImageGREATFALL by Jason Gurley

I’d read W.J. Davies’ WOOL fanfic The Runner and a few other smaller WOOL stories, but when I finally dove into Greatfall this past summer, I was stunned by how well someone could write a story set in someone else’s universe. This story probably really set me on course to write my own WOOL stories and in fact, Gurley’s work as a cover artist helped me out a ton as well. I’ve had a sneak-peak at Gurley’s book Eleanor, which he should be releasing some time in 2014 and it is already drawing comparisons to Neil Gaiman’s The House at the End of the Lane — and for good reasons.

I suppose we’ll go with those as my Top 7, but I’ll give a few others as Honorable Mentions:

Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, Ben Winters’ The Last Policemen, Hugh Howey’s Sand 1 & 2 (we’ll see how Sand plays out in 2014), Carol Davis’ Blood Moon, John Scalzi’s The Human Division (which I read in 13 installments early this year), and CyberStorm by Matthew Mather.

There were so many books I loved in 2013, but I’m betting 2014 will be even better. As always, check back here from time to time for my progress. As of late December, I’m probably 90 percent done with the rough draft of my sequel to Dead Sleep. I’ve also got a couple fantastic ideas cooking in my noggin. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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FREE BOOKS!!

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Halloween is turning out to be a treat for book-lovers. There are four books I know of that are free over the next few days which are normally not — perfect time to go pick them up.

ImageFirst off, go get Peter Cawdron’s Little Green Men. Seriously. Do it now.

I reviewed it already a few months ago and it will be well worth your time. Cawdron drew his inspiration from the Philip K. Dick stories we all grew up on and achieved his goal tremendously. A classic sci-fi tale written in modern times. LGM is free today through Nov. 3.

Next is Blood Moon by Carol Davis.

I also reviewed Blood Moon a few weeks ago and did a short interview with author Carol Davis. Carol is fairly new to the self-publishing scene on Amazon, but not new to writing. Carol has got some serious writing chops and Blood Moon shows it. A good werewolf story told in a new way. Blood Moon will be free on Halloween day.

ImageAlso free right now is Eric Tozzi’s The Scout.

This is the only one out of the bunch I haven’t yet had a chance to sink my teeth into, but boy does it look good. Very highly recommended by friends of mine, Tozzi’s book tells the story of an alien scout that was sent to survey the earth. Tozzi’s background lends itself perfectly to his first written work. From his Amazon author page: “For over five years I worked for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a documentary producer and editor, covering Mars Exploration.” I know I’ll be reading this as soon as I get a chance.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Nighthawks at the Mission by Forbes West.

This book can probably best be summed up in this review by Michael Bunker. “Nighthawks at the Mission is an epic, fantasy, sci-fi, tour-de-force. It is also a slightly demented, scatter-brained, fragmented, meme-dropping, allusion-riddled, drug-addled, Jack Kerouac-like, stream-of-consciousness mind thumping that dares you to “get it.”

Also right now, I’m offering my own sci-fi horror short story Ant Apocalypse free today and tomorrow.

The set-up is simple — a man in a house with ants. What happens when those ants become more than what the man expects? If you download it and read it, I’d love for you to leave me a review on Amazon for it.

Anyway — that’s what I’ve got for now. Go get some great reading material!!

Books as Entertainment? Or Thought-Provoking Stimulus?

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Here is an age-old debate: should you read a book that is mindless entertainment or choose one that stimulates your thoughts and gets you thinking? 

I say — both! 

Well, there certainly are some that can do both very well. A few that I’ve read lately include the books in Hugh Howey’s WOOL series and Peter Cawdron’s new sci-fi thriller “Little Green Men.” 

 

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I just finished LGM and I’ll tell anyone who is looking for a great book to read to pick it up. Cawdron invokes Philip K. Dick and Michael Crichton with misdirections and head-fakes, all while telling a compelling action story. In the end, the kicker is a fantastic one and leaves the reader’s head spinning most of the book. Is it smart and thoughtful? Yes. Is it action-packed? Yes again. 

A book can be both. 

But, maybe you want to just be entertained. Perfectly fine as well. I love Lee Child and his Jack Reacher books. I doubt you would be able to find a lot of people who would say Child has an ulterior motive or agenda to the books, other than to entertain the crap out of people. Mission accomplished, sir. 

Maybe you want to have the boundaries of what you know pushed and to think about things in a new way. Maybe even to feel. Totally fine as well. John Green’s works like Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars (both terrific) are great books that or even some Neil Gaiman as well. 

Not to say that the thoughtful books don’t have action and the entertaining books don’t make you feel, but the balance between the two is a fine line that is difficult to balance. I’ll go for a lot of different types of books and it really just depends on my mood when I start reading, but you really can’t go wrong either way. 

Just read!